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Leland Yee, a friend of newspapers, may have had a dark side

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Posted: Friday, March 28, 2014 5:23 pm

Leland Yee, the state senator accused of bribery and gun trafficking, was a friend of California newspapers.

I think you should know that.

I want to talk about Yee and his association with newspapers because for decades I have shared with our readers the wisdom I've received in meetings of the California Newspaper Publisher Association Governmental Affairs Committee.

Yes, that group is all about lobbying. But I and my fellow publishers feel when we urged Yee and other legislators to carry bills to open up government to public scrutiny we are fighting a good fight. 

And it's still a good fight.

But we're deeply hurt to learn Sen. Yee, perhaps our staunchest ally, may have had a very dark side.

At CNPA's urging, Yee authored bills to strengthen the Public Records Act, open meeting laws and the rights of student journalists to publish critical stories despite school district opposition. He also worked to demand public disclosure by the University of California retirement system and governments entering contracts with private partners.

"He was our 'go-to guy'," CNPA's Jim Ewert said this week.

It isn't just newspaper people — his staff, a legion of supporters and fellow senators are also shocked.

Yee worked for reforms of juvenile justice, and "causes that protect children — foster kids, kids given life sentences," said Ewert. Call it irony or hypocrisy Yee, the senator accused of gun running, was a big proponent of gun control.

"Until a few days ago, his dedication to public service was the standard," said Ewert.

Here's a link to the Associated Press story that broke Wednesday. It contains a slew of accusations by the FBI.

I asked Ewert if there's a chance the bureau got it wrong.

"Of course," said Ewert, "he's innocent until proven guilty. There’s always that chance.

"But even if he’s exonerated, his political career is over and his legacy is wiped out."

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